The Sisterhood of Keeping

We hope that you have been able to take some time to sit with our latest exhibit. The stories that we have collected have been so rich and full and moving. The stories are based on the tenets of the Sisterhood Creed; joy, suffering, acceptance, sharpening and keeping. We received stories representative of every tenet, except one.

The Sisterhood of Keeping.

I know full well that we are holding space for one another. I know that Black women are taking care of their mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and beyond. I know that we have taken up our swords and committed to do battle for one another, when we are in need and when we are hurting. And I know that this is true for more than a few of us. But there is another reality that many Black women face while in relationship with other Black women.

This past winter, I went to a restaurant with a friend. As part of the hospitality, a hostess, who, in this case, was an older Black woman, walked from table to table, asking patrons about their meal, and overall their experience in the small, popular venue. I took notice of this woman and observed the manner in which she visited everyone. I noticed how she tried to make herself smaller as she approached the table of white men and how she moved all about our table, but waited until she was almost finished with all of the tables on our side before she arrived at our table, extending us the hospitality even vaguely congruent with what she had exhibited before. When she approached our table, she was kind, but she was not invested. It was almost as if she assumed that we were good and we really didn’t need her help. In fairness, we didn’t need her help but we did want her attention. We wanted her brand of sweetness suited to us, the same way she did for the white men.

After she quickly  did her due diligence to cover our table, my friend and I talked about this and how it made us feel. It reminded me of the case of the last five smiles. If all you have to give are your last five smiles, who are you giving them to? Are these the folks closest to you, like family members and fiends, or are these strangers with whom you have no real  relationship? I do think that the hostess wanted to give us one of her last five smiles, but she was saving them for someone else, or some other time because she figured that we were okay and we didn’t need it. It was painful to watch her give one away to someone so different from her when her daughters were sitting right there with her, eager and excited to share space with her. The thing is, so many of us do this to one another. We get so busy fighting in the world that we expect our sisters to have their stuff together, to be able to march and fight with us, not need us to fight with them. The Sisterhood of Keeping is about this–taking care of one another by holding space for one another, making room for another, and so much more. Are we keeping each other when our weaknesses make us heavy to bear? Are we keeping one another when our brokenness makes us hurtful and harmful? Are we showing gratitude for all the times that we have had to be kept?I believe we are.

Will you please lift your voices and share your stories so that we can encourage our sisters to keep fighting for one another? #weallwegot

Head to our Get Involved page for more information about submitting a story.

Happy New Year! With a new year comes the excitement of fresh beginnings and new opportunities. So many of us create new year’s resolutions while others of us choose to take a more general route, opting for overall self improvement and still others of us forgo the whole deal altogether. Whatever your choice and whatever your reason, we at The Beautiful Project think that it would serve each of you well to be reminded that

you are enough.

Complacency is not the goal in giving this encouragement. On the contrary, we hope that if you start from a place of self love and self acceptance, you will go confidently toward every ambition you dare dream of. And besides, this affirmation is something that we just don’t hear as much as we need to.

It is a big, bad, bold, brave thing you do each day when you wake up and face the world, fully yourself, despite its efforts to conform you into something it can contain and control.

Even if you have chosen not to set goals for this new year, you, no doubt, are hoping that this will be a good year, right? Resolve now to accept the good in you, celebrate the influences you leave on the world around you and dare to live the one life you’ve been given with all the magic and wonder inside of you.

Happy new year, ladies.

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to join a round table discussion during the Barnard Center for Research on Women’s 40th Anniversary Scholar & Feminist Conference. Grounded in the theme Action on Education, the space compelled “scholars, activists, educators, and artists to explore the K-12 landscape and higher education, investigating who can attain post-secondary education, under what circumstances, and at what cost.”

Moderated by our brilliant friend, Dr. Tami Navarro, Associate Director of BCRW, we shared the origins and methodology of our work and engaged in a discussion about expanding spaces of knowledge beyond the classroom. Our work was thoughtfully placed in conversation with Dr. Lalaie Ameeriar’s focus on trade schools and apprenticeship programs in Canada and Dr. Jaz Choi’s research on humanistic approaches to design as well as youth social entrepreneurship in networked urban environments around the world. While our corners of the world seemed unrelated at a glance, our discussion made it clear that multiple spaces of learning are integral in the face of inhumane treatment and distorted representations of women of color.

11:19 #2 The Scholar & Feminist Conference XL: Action on Education IMG_3693BW

Our time with this roundtable was phenomenal. But the moment of the conference that marked us most was the invaluable presentation Girls Behind Bars: Black Girls and the School-to-Prison Pipeline led by the Black Youth Project 100. BYP 100 took the stage and systematically walked through the pervasive trauma Black girls continue to face in the education system. The combined authority and vulnerability in how they took hold of the room, created a powerful image that is hard to capture in words. The African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies’ report Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected are not just words on a page.

11:19 #3 The Scholar & Feminist Conference XL: Action on EducationOur thanks to the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW) at Columbia University for working to create a space that included the nuanced voices of black people. Deep gratitude to Dr. Tami Navarro for the invitation, you are a beloved champion in our Beautiful Community.

For years we shielded the inner workings of our story from the public at large. Winded by the nuanced aggression towards a space that intentionally focuses on black girls and women as humane citizens, much of our time was spent quietly working and re-working our methodology. We committed to walking with black girls, women, and their families all the while building our own. But our advisors, friends, and mentors challenged us to actively engage the world on a larger scale. This is a behind the scenes glimpse of our first encounter with the One Solution media crew that will forever be held in high esteem for the way they surrounded us and said “we will not do you harm.”

10:22 Behind the Scenes TVOne Commercial FullSizeRender

Why I Work is a web series by One Solution, sponsored by Wells Fargo featuring the personal stories of extraordinary African-Americans and the purpose that fuels their hard work. The series also aired exclusively on TV One and local Radio One stations and now lives on News One online. On a rainy day in May, a crew of producers and image makers descended on Durham, NC. We spent hours sharing personal stories about identity, pride, and discomfort. They asked me how I capture images, where I get inspired and what the process can look like in my day to day. Then suddenly the equipment was in place and the cameras were ready to roll. While their talent as a crew was clear, it was their care in capturing our story that stood out.

At The Beautiful Project we believe that making images through the lens and the pen takes depth and thoughtful boldness. The moments they took to get the shot right, to make the story clear, to push me—resonated with what TBP stands for as a community. To visually rep our commitment to black women, our friend Modupe allowed the crew to capture our Self-Care Exhibit photo shoot. And to rep the little girls we love, sweet Ahmadie hung tough in the rain as the crew captured our photo shoot.

In case you missed it you can check out the commercial below!

True thanks to you Detavio Samuels, Archie Bell, Sherina Florence, Jennifer Brown, Jonathan Yi, Marc Chenail,  and Jon O’Hara!

Deep thanks to our friends at Frontline Solutions and Beyu Caffe for the generous use of their space, to the stars of the piece Modupe Edogun and Ahmadie (and Jasmine) Bowles, and to our dope connector from the Beautiful Community Dr. Bianca Williams for giving us Detavio.

Today on the blog we have a post by a former intern, Precious Graham. I can’t say enough about this woman. Working alongside her for a couple of years was inspiring as I watched her express herself creatively through the lens and through thoughtful, reflective conversation. It was also encouraging because I would think to myself about all of the grand possibilities for the world because she was in it. She spares no part of her brilliance and thoughtfulness on this piece. Enlighten your Monday by taking some time to read her provocative piece below. 

 

Last week 14-year-old Willow Smith’s glamorous editorial spread and cover for Issue 6 of Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book was released.  Rocking everything from Tom Ford to Saint Laurent, Willow embodies a cool, seemingly effortless bohemian style that is captured in a high fashion lens. In the words of black twitter: “Mama is slaying!” Flipping through the photos for the second time, I came to the conclusion that what was awe-inspiring to me about this editorial was more than the clothes, the photography, or even Willow herself. I take a certain pleasure in seeing a black girl having the freedom to be completely and unapologetically herself, whatever that may look like. It almost feels luxurious. Willow is quoted in the magazine as saying “I just want to have dreads. I want to embrace my full self, as natural as I can be…I think my look changes all of the time, and right now it’s a bit more messy, kind of grungy.” In the last few years, particularly as the visibility of black women with natural hair has increased, these girls have been dubbed “carefree black girls” on social media. However, as much as I adore the concept, I also find it a bit depressing in that it suggests that black girls have so much to care about in the first place that to be oneself has become a revolutionary act.

As an undergraduate at Duke University, I was selected to be a part of a women’s leadership program on campus called the Baldwin Scholars program. Upon matriculation into the program, one of the first things we were taught was “effortless perfection.” Coined by a breakthrough study at Duke in 2003, the phrase describes the impossible pursuit among college women of academic excellence, physical beauty, and popularity, all without appearing to break a sweat. Because achieving this perfection is impossible, it often leads to insecurity, low self-esteem, and a host of other issues. Sounds bad, right? Well imagine a young woman battling that societal pressure everyday while simultaneously attempting to refute negative racial stereotypes that have existed for hundreds of years. Effortless perfection is ten times worse for a black girl because she has to constantly consider the negative societal views that may accompany her blackness as well as her womanhood. She is not afforded the luxury of being herself because she has to be a representative. She is supposed to be beautiful (in a way that appeases the white dominant culture), fit and curvy (even though that is grounds to be criticized as well), educated, heteronormative, domestic, gregarious, mild-tempered, and so on. Any slip up could land her in any of the various categories that describe a wrong type of black woman, namely Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire, or as they might be called today, Baby Mama, Hoe/Thot, or Bitch/Angry Black woman that will never get married. While conformity to these pressures are exemplified in a number of ways, it is very often performed through the mediums of hair and fashion.

So yes, when I come across a black girl who is unapologetically herself in that regard, it is indeed revolutionary. If I had to give any advice to young black girls, it would be to hold on to that thing that makes you who you are, but also to have fun in the process of figuring out what that looks like. Wear an afro to an interview. Get piercings or tattoos if you feel compelled to do so. Experiment with fashion. Declare an art history major if that is what you love. Wear dreads to a fancy event like the Oscars, even though someone might think you smell like “patchouli oil and weed.” Give yourself the grace to make mistakes. Someone once told me that as a black woman your presence should be so great, so awe-inspiring that anyone who encounters you should be forced to deconstruct any preconceived notions they ever held about black women. I am now offering that advice to you.

 

Precious Graham graduated from Duke University in 2012. She is pursuing an interdisciplinary career in Demography and Social Policy. Her research interests include family demography, race and gender politics, and stratification.  She currently lives in the Washington DC Metro Area. Follow her on twitter @precgraham.

Photo Credit: Jamaica Gilmer for The Beautiful Project

For Harriet, a society and culture site whose provocative perspectives I enjoy pondering, posted this article discussing the character Mary Jane Paul played by Gabrielle Union in her hit show Being Mary Jane currently airing weekly on BET. The premise of the article was an examination of the polarizing opinions of the character, asking if whether or not the criticism of Mary Jane was based on Black women’s shame and disgust at seeing their own flaws and issues splayed on screen week after week. Through a conversation on Facebook, asking the same question, many folks, both men and women, weighed in. The responses were a mix of thoughtful, funny, plaintive and at times dismissive but there was one refrain heard ever so often in the feed that just got me thinking. It was the idea that the very nature of such a conversation was taking things too seriously. “It’s just a show,” they said. “It’s just entertainment,” they interjected when the comments became too self reflective. “Is it really that serious?” they mocked. So. Are they right? Do the reflections we see of our likeness depicted in fictional television characters communicate anything about ourselves? Can we objectively view television shows and walk away simply entertained? Is it ever just entertainment? Leave a comment below, tweet, or hit us up on Facebook with your thoughts @thebeautifulprj!

 

 

Photo Credit

No, it’s not “Woman Crush Wednesday” (wherever that came from) but it’s Tuesday, as good a day as any, to show love to a sister, mother, grandmother, auntie, cousin, or friend who you value. Think about it: what woman or women in your life need to know or would just be glad to know that they are appreciated, loved and well thought of? Once you know who it is, send her a little love note. You can do it privately or post it up on social media for the world to see and celebrate with you!

Too often we bash, size up, and challenge one another. We criticize, tear down with our words, and compare ourselves to one another. Left just to what is seen on the television, we are a batch of broken people who have too few genuine relationships and more enemies than we care to acknowledge. We aren’t really that defensive, are we? Not that insecure, surely? Let the remnant rise up; those of us who are working through our brokenness and striving to be better. Those of us who know that there are women who have stood alongside us, watched us grow, dealt with our growing pains and stayed around to see the beauty birthed from the process. Shout her out today! Gratitude evokes joy. Showing love to your sister not only gives her joy, you get a little taste of it too.

Once you post or send your message, please tag us  @thebeautifulprj on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Let’s light up the world today with love for the beautiful women in our lives!

Always, a leading brand of feminine products, has an amazing new campaign out designed to support girls as they go through the tumult that often occurs in many different forms during puberty. In this campaign they ask, “What do YOU do #LikeAGirl?” Tweet us using #LikeAGirl @thebeautifulprj.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Always

Video Credit: Always YouTube Channel

Found this very charming article and video on Vogue.com. Thought we’d share! Enjoy and click over to Vogue for the full article about Lupita’s braiding party!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo & Video Credits: Vogue Original Shorts

This woman. What can I say? She is a history lesson, a storyteller, an image-maker. She is culture, love, beauty, goodness and so many other things. I cannot get enough of her. Her album, Sing to the Moon, has been on repeat in my ears and in my head for quite some time now and I know that it will only continue to be and increasingly so because the work is timeless. It’s just that wonderful. She woos and thrills with her vocals. She evokes and enthralls with her lyrics. This woman is everything. If you haven’t already, take some time to get to know her and her work.

This video made me smile.

#loveher

 

Photo Credit: Le Poisson Rouge

Video Credit: Laura Mvula Vevo